Wednesday, December 10, 2003
Judge Malcolm Mackey Rejects Claim That Shelters For Battered Women Violate Anti-Bias Laws
By KENNETH OFGANG, Staff Writer
Some 30 state laws designed to benefit women, including those providing financial support for battered women’s shelters, do not unconstitutionally discriminate against men, a Los Angeles Superior Court judge has ruled.
Saying the protection of women is “pivotal to our political and cultural heritage,” Judge Malcolm Mackey’s ruling Friday rejected the action for declaratory and injunctive relief brought by the Coalition of Free Men. A copy of the ruling was obtained yesterday by the MetNews.
The same group has sued a number of shelters, arguing that their receipt of state tax dollars requires them to accept battered men. But Mackey said the state was not required to treat battered men and battered women as similarly situated.
“It is permissible to address social problems in phases and to differentiate between classes that are in fact, different,” the judge wrote. “...Women and men are not the same physically, emotionally or socially. It is permissible for the Legislature to address the problem of battered spouses in the manner it determines will serve those most in need or the greatest number of needy.”
Among the laws also challenged in the suit were those that provide for specific medical services for women or specifically address women’s health issues, establish domestic violence task forces with state funding, create an office for women veterans’ affairs within the state Department of Veteran Affairs, and provide special assistance for women who are engaged in, or can be trained to engage in, nontraditional occupations through the unemployment insurance system.
Also attacked were laws that assist pregnant prison inmates as well as female inmates with children, direct science educators to address “the needs of women” in approving projects, and establish a non-mandatory participation goal for women-owned businesses contracting with community colleges.
None of those laws, however, establish gender-based classifications that would violate the state or federal constitutions on the face of the legislation, Mackey said. The judge noted that all of the coalition’s attacks were facial challenges; the complaint, Mackey said, pled “conclusions rather than factual allegations” that would support an as-applied challenge to any of the statutes.
On their face, the judge wrote, the laws appear narrowly tailored to achieve legitimate legislative goals.
“Narrow tailoring does not require an exhaustion of every conceivable gender neutral alternative nor does it require the Legislature to do so, but it does require serious, good faith consideration of workable neutral alternatives that will achieve the protection of women in our society,” the judge wrote. “The court finds that the Legislature has done this in the above-mentioned statutes.”
Morse Mehrban, the Los Angeles attorney for the Coalition of Free Men, did not return a phone call seeking comment on the ruling.
Copyright 2003, Metropolitan News Company